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Rhode Island crime news: November 2022

Providence Police investigate a shooting on Carolina Avenue, late Thursday, May 13, 2021, in Providence, R.I.Stew Milne/Associated Press

Dec. 2, 2022

Newport man sentenced in manslaughter death of Providence man

PROVIDENCE — A Newport man who got into a fight that left a Providence man dying in a busy West End intersection in 2016 has been ordered to serve 22½ years at the Adult Correctional Institutions.

Jose Medina, 49, nicknamed “Spoon,” pleaded no contest on Nov. 25 to manslaughter in the death of 50-year-old Patrick Douglas, the attorney general’s office said on Friday.

Superior Court Justice Stephen P. Nugent sentenced Medina to 30 years, with 22½ to serve and the remainder suspended. After his release, Medina will be on 30 years of probation.

Both men had led lives of crime and drug addiction when they crossed paths on Elmwood Avenue on May 9, 2016. They got into an argument, which led to a fight, and Medina pulled out a small knife and stabbed Douglas in the chest, according to the investigation by Providence Detectives Michael Otrando and Casey Moffett. Medina fled as Douglas lay dying at Elmwood Avenue and Westfield Street.

The Providence detectives determined that Medina was the suspect, and Newport police arrested him a little over a week later. Medina had just been released from the ACI nine months earlier on other charges, according to court records.

Special Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Morin prosecuted the case.

“Far too often my office prosecutes cases involving senseless disputes settled with unnecessary acts of violence that bring tragic outcomes,” Attorney General Peter F. Neronha said in a prepared statement. “While nothing will bring back Mr. Douglas to his family and loved ones, it is my hope that the significant sentence imposed here by the court will bring them a measure of justice.”

Nov. 30, 2022

Providence man charged with stealing car with toddler inside

PROVIDENCE — A 50-year-old Providence man is accused of stealing a vehicle with a 3-year-old child inside on Tuesday evening. The child’s mother was at McDonald’s on 343 Broad St. around 9:30 p.m. when the man drove off with her car. The police were called and broadcast a description of the car, which officers quickly found parked outside the Omni Hotel in the city’s downtown.

The child was still inside the car and unhurt, according to police. Meanwhile, hotel security told police that the suspect ran away toward the skybridge.

After viewing the security footage, Officer John Najarian got a picture of the suspect, which was sent out to all officers. Within minutes, Sergeant Michael Clary saw a man who looked like the suspect getting on RIPTA bus on Charles Street.

The police pulled the bus over, and the man jumped out and ran. The police said they caught him soon afterwards on Charles Street; a witness who saw the driver of the stolen car also identified him.

The man was identified as Osvaldo Vasquez, 50, and was charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, according to court records. He was arraigned at 6th District Court on Wednesday morning, where he was presented as a violator of his bail in a 2019 larceny case and as a violator of probation in a first-degree robbery case from 2008.

— Amanda Milkovits

Nov. 23, 2022

City allows Cadillac Lounge to reopen after fatal stabbing in parking lot

PROVIDENCE — The city Board of Licenses voted on Wednesday to allow the Cadillac Lounge strip club on Charles Street to reopen days after a man was fatally stabbed after leaving.

Stephon Calice, 26, of Fall River, was fatally stabbed after leaving the club early Saturday. Police have not announced any arrests.

The reopening of the club comes with conditions related to security, including getting a police detail for Wednesday night and other busy nights. The five-member board, which controls business licenses for restaurant and liquor licenses, met Wednesday afternoon at City Hall to vote on reopening the club.

The Cadillac Lounge’s lawyer, Nicholas Hemond, said the Cadillac Lounge has extensively cooperated with authorities.

The club had been shuttered in the wake of the homicide. Owner Dick Shappy previously said the stabbing occurred in part of the parking lot that the club shares with a vintage car business that he also owns; it was technically on the vintage car business’ property, he said. Police previously said everyone involved in the altercation leading up to the stabbing had been patrons at the club.

--Brian Amaral

Nov. 22, 2022

Pawtucket man sentenced to 15 years in home invasion that injured resident

PROVIDENCE — A man who was involved in a home invasion in Johnston in 2021 where a 30-year-old resident was shot and stabbed was ordered Tuesday to serve 15 years at the Adult Correctional Institutions.

Deven Guernon, 25, of Pawtucket, pleaded no contest to assault with a dangerous weapon with intent to rob, first-degree robbery, and two counts of conspiracy, the attorney general’s office said. Providence County Superior Court Judge Robert D. Krause sentenced Guernon to 30 years, including 15 years to serve at the ACI and 15 years suspended with probation.

Attorney General Peter F. Neronha thanked the Johnston police, including detectives Anthony Sasso, John Deangelis, and Mark Bairos, for their investigation.

“When every Rhode Islander comes home and shuts the door behind them, their entirely reasonable expectation is that they are safe, and that any visitors, even the unexpected, will arrive with only good intentions,” Neronha said in a statement. “The defendant here flouted that principle, and to the extreme. To invade another’s home, armed with gun and knife, with the intent to steal the property of the homeowner, is simply outrageous.”

Guernon and an unidentified person broke into a residence on Atwood Avenue in the early hours of Jan. 10, 2021, and attempted to steal marijuana and cash, according to the case prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General John Perrotta. They got into a fight with the resident and slashed him with a knife, and then, the other unidentified suspect shot the resident in the thigh with a .40 caliber handgun.

Guernon and the other suspect got away with $1,000 and a cell phone, but the Johnston police identified Guernon as a suspect, according to the attorney general’s office. Guernon was arrested in Denver, Colorado, in January 2021 and brought back to Rhode Island to face the charges.

The gun has not been recovered.

Nov. 21, 2022

New York City man sentenced to federal prison for defrauding R.I. seniors in ‘grandparent scam’

PROVIDENCE — A New Yorker was sentenced to nearly three years in federal prison Monday and ordered to pay nearly $400,00 restitution for being involved in a conspiracy that defrauded more than a dozen Rhode Island seniors who fell for a so-called “grandparent scam.”

The scam that sent 40-year-old Jason Hatcher to prison involved at least 14 victims who were between 79 and 94 years old, US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha said in a statement. Each victim received calls from people who impersonated relatives or lawyers, who said that a loved one, often a grandchild, had been arrested after being involved in a motor vehicle accident and needed cash bail, according to the US Attorney’s Office.

The callers told the victims to give cash to a courier who would be sent to their homes. Hatcher travelled around Rhode Island and collected the money from people, according to the investigation.

Rhode Island victims were scammed out of approximately $394,033.

Hatcher pleaded guilty on July 5, 2020, to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. US District Court Judge William E. Smith sentenced him to 33 months in federal prison, followed by three years of federal supervised release. Smith also ordered Hatcher to pay $394,033 in restitution.

Two co-defendants, Bryan Valdez-Espinosa, 22, and Diego A. Alarcon, 22, of Union City, N.J.. pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and are awaiting sentencing in US District Court in Providence. Homeland Security Investigations had investigated the case, and Assistant US Attorneys G. Michael Seaman, Christine D. Lowell, and Lee H. Vilker prosecuted the case.

Nov. 21, 2022

Coventry woman admits fraudulently applying for, getting $17k in COVID funds

PROVIDENCE — A Coventry woman admitted to a federal judge that she fraudulently applied for and received more than $17,000 in unemployment benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

Deanna Alston, 34, said in court Monday that while collecting pandemic related unemployment benefits from the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, she also filed fraudulent applications with California and Pennsylvania. During a few months in 2020, Alston collected approximately $17,075 in unemployment benefits that she wasn’t entitled to, according to the US Attorney’s Office.

Alston pleaded guilty to wire fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 27, 2023.

Criminal cases related to fraudulent applications for pandemic-related unemployment insurance benefits are investigated jointly by the FBI, State Police, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General. The team of prosecutors includes assistant U.S. attorneys Stacey P. Veroni, Denise M. Barton, and G. Michael Seaman, and Rhode Island Assistant Attorney General John M. Moreira, chief of the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unit.

Rhode Islanders who believe their personal identification has been stolen and used to fraudulently obtain unemployment benefits are urged to contact the Rhode Island State Police at financialcrimes@risp.gov or the FBI Providence office at (401) 272-8310.

Nov. 17, 2022

Pawtucket woman who molested toddler is sentenced to federal prison

PROVIDENCE — A Pawtucket woman who recorded herself molesting a toddler and sent the video to her then boyfriend was sentenced Thursday to 15 years in federal prison, announced US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.

Samantha York, 34, pleaded guilty on June 8 to sexual exploitation of a minor and distribution of child pornography.

The case stems back to 2016, when law enforcement arrested York’s boyfriend at the time, John Q. Adams, 33, of Foster, in an unrelated case. The authorities discovered that Adams had a video on his cell phone of an adult molesting a toddler, according to court documents. Adams allegedly told investigators that York provided him with the video to satisfy his sexual desire for young girls.

The child’s face was clearly visible in the video. Law enforcement identified the girl and determined that York, who was a caregiver for the child, was the person shown in the video molesting the child, and that she recorded her actions, and sent the video to Adams. Adams later sent the video to another individual, according to court records.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge John J. McConnell Jr. sentenced York to 15 years in federal prison, followed by 10 years of federal supervised release.

Adams is awaiting trial on unrelated charges of receipt of child pornography and possession of child pornography.

Assistant US Attorney Denise M. Barton is prosecuting both cases. The Rhode Island State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Woonsocket Police, and Homeland Security Investigations jointly investigated the case.

Nov. 17, 2022

Sex offender convicted three times of child porn is sentenced to federal prison

PROVIDENCE — A Providence man who has been convicted of child pornography in separate cases brought by the US Air Force, Rhode Island state court, and US District Court in Providence this year was sentenced Thursday to federal prison.

Christopher J. Skinner, 33, of Providence, was ordered to serve 10 years for possession of child pornography, announced United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children notified the State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in January that files containing child sexual abuse had been uploaded by someone in Rhode Island.

A Homeland Security Investigations agent and a state police detective determined that the files had been uploaded from an IP address assigned to Skinner’s residence. Law enforcement searched Skinner’s home and cell phone in February and found images containing child sexual abuse.

Skinner pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in June to possession of child pornography. U.S. District Court Judge Mary S. McElroy sentenced him to 10 years, followed by 10 years of federal supervised release.

Skinner was convicted in 2010 of possession of child pornography by the US Air Force and sentenced to two years and dishonorable discharge. Then in 2014, Skinner was convicted in Rhode Island state court of possession of child pornography and sentenced to 10 years of incarceration, with three years to serve.

Skinner has also been convicted of failure to register as a sex offender.

Nov. 16, 2022

Jury convicts N.Y. man of murdering the mother of his new fiancee’s ex-boyfriend on New Year’s Day 2020

PROVIDENCE — A jury convicted a man who traveled from New York to Pawtucket and killed the mother of his new girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend in 2020.

After an eight-day trial, Jack Doherty, 26, was found guilty Tuesday of murder, discharge of a firearm when committing a violent crime, conspiracy, and carrying a pistol without a license. Doherty had used a ghost gun to kill 54-year-old Cheryl Smith of Pawtucket.

Doherty is being held without bail at the Adult Correctional Institutions pending a sentencing hearing at Providence County Superior Court.

Doherty’s fiancee, Shaylyn Moran, 21, was convicted in August 2021 of murder and sentenced to serve life in prison, plus 20 years, for her role in Smith’s death.

Doherty had proposed to Moran just before going to Smith’s house to kill whoever opened the door. The engagement lasted a few hours, until the Pawtucket police arrested them after the couple posted selfies on Facebook of them in bed at a hotel room.

Moran had met her new boyfriend online, and over months, talked to him about wanting to kill her ex-boyfriend, according to police and prosecutors.

So, when Doherty left his home in New York to come meet Moran for the first time on New Year’s Eve 2019, he brought a 9mm ghost gun pistol.

They got engaged that night at a New Year’s Eve party, stayed at the Hampton Inn just off Route 95, and the next day, Doherty went to the ex-boyfriend’s house on Baxter Street in Pawtucket to shoot whoever opened the door.

He opened fire on Smith, a teacher’s assistant at the local YMCA and a real estate agent. Doherty ran away; firefighters rushed Smith to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

During the trial before Judge Kristin E. Rodgers, Doherty tried a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity. The jury found otherwise.

Special Assistant Attorney General Stephen Dambruch, Assistant Attorney General Joseph McBurney, and Pawtucket police Sergeant Michael Cioe and Sergeant Justin Gould led the investigation and prosecution.

Nov. 9, 2022

Providence man sentenced for trafficking fentanyl and possessing ghost gun

PROVIDENCE — A Providence man was sentenced last month to serve eight years at the Adult Correctional Institutions Wednesday after pleading no contest to trafficking fentanyl and possessing a ghost gun.

Tyrece McCants, 31, was arrested in March by the state police High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, which had been investigating suspected fentanyl distribution from his home on Newark Street in Providence.

When task force members arrived on March 29 to search his home, McCants fled, tossing a ghost-gun pistol from his waistband, according to the attorney general’s office. The investigators caught McCants, found the pistol, and seized from his house about 37 grams of fentanyl, 21 grams of cocaine, some marijuana, $2,199 in cash, and other drug paraphernalia.

During a hearing at Providence County Superior Court on Oct. 27, McCants pleaded no contest to possession with intent to sell one ounce to one kilo of fentanyl, possession of a ghost gun, possession of a firearm while possessing with intent to deliver fentanyl, and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.

Magistrate John F. McBurney III sentenced McCants to 15 years, with eight years to serve, and a seven-year suspended sentence with 15 years of probation.

“Here again we have the all too familiar scenario of a dangerous drug dealer armed with a Polymer80 ghost gun sourced from an out-of-state online ghost gun kit company,” Attorney General Peter F. Neronha said in a statement Wednesday. “We have charged approximately 50 cases involving such guns over the past two years, and it should come as no surprise that that these ghost gun kits, obtained without the necessity of a background check, are sought by those seeking to make money by providing arms to criminals or criminals seeking to arm themselves.”

Special Assistant Attorney General Daniel Hopkins and Officer Manuel Sifontes of the RISP HIDTA Task Force led the investigation and prosecution.

Nov. 8, 2022

Rhode Island State Police arrest 2 men, seize three handguns in traffic stop.

LINCOLN, R.I. -- Two Connecticut men were arrested Tuesday night after troopers stopped their speeding vehicle on Route 146 and discovered loaded guns, a hatchet and a stun gun, according to the state police.

During a search of the vehicle, the troopers found a loaded .45 pistol, a hatchet, and a stun gun in a backpack next to the front-seat passenger, Jacob Robert, 21, of Woodstock. They also found a .38 caliber revolver and a 9 millimeter ghost gun, both loaded, in a backpack next to the backseat passenger, Kaleb O’Connell, 22, of Dayville.

Both Robert and O’Connell were arrested and scheduled for arraignment at Third District Court Wednesday. Robert is charged with carrying a pistol without a license, two counts of having weapons other than firearms, and a warrant from Scituate police on an eluding charge.

O’Connell is charged with possession of a ghost gun and two counts of carrying a pistol without a license.

Nov. 8, 2022

Providence man sentenced to federal prison for fraudulently applying for COVID unemployment benefits

PROVIDENCE — A Providence man who filed a fraudulent application for unemployment benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program was sentenced on Tuesday to 30 days in federal prison and three months home confinement.

Deeshawn Gadson, 32, had pleaded guilty in January to a charge of wire fraud, the US Attorney’s office said Wednesday.

In April 2020, Gadson, who lived and worked in Rhode Island, submitted online applications to the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training for benefits in the CARES Act. Gadson began receiving benefits the next month, eventually reaching approximately $20,302 in unemployment benefits.

Shortly after he began receiving these benefit payments from the RIDLT, Gadson submitted a fraudulent online application to the Arizona State Department of Economic Security, falsely stating that he lived and worked in Arizona. As a result, Gadson was paid $7,170 in PAU program benefits, according to the US Attorney’s Office.

U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith sentenced Gadson to 30 days of incarceration, followed by three years of federal supervised release, with the first three months in home confinement with electronic monitoring. Gadson was also ordered to pay $7,170 in restitution to the Arizona State Department of Economic Safety.

Nov. 8, 2022

West Warwick man accused of domestic violence is arraigned on federal firearm and drug charges

PROVIDENCE — A West Warwick man accused of holding a woman against her will and threatening to shoot her is now facing federal firearms and drug charges.

Geovhan Rashaine Thomas, 35, was arrested last week, after officers in the West Warwick/Coventry Police Departments Regional SWAT team searched his residence and seized seven firearms, nearly a kilo of cocaine, and about $575,000 in cash, according to the US Attorney’s office.

The investigation began last week, after a woman told police that Thomas had assaulted and threatened her, and got a gun from his bedroom at his residence early on Oct. 31. Thomas eventually allowed the woman and her two children to leave, then the West Warwick police drew an arrest warrant and assembled the SWAT team.

Thomas, who was previously convicted on drug charges, was charged by West Warwick police with felony domestic kidnapping and several misdemeanor domestic violence charges. He was ordered held without bail as a violator.

Thomas was arraigned in US District Court on Tuesday on charges from federal authorities with possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and being a felon in possession of firearms.

Oct. 13, 2022

Jury convicts two men in 2018 drive-by gang-related murder in Providence

PROVIDENCE — Two men affiliated with street gangs were convicted Oct. 6 of killing a 57-year-old man who had stopped to pick up two people the men were aiming for.

David Page wasn’t the intended target when Chandanoeuth Hay, 32, and Jaythan Hang, 23, fired into his car on June 26, 2018, in the city’s Silver Lake neighborhood. Page, who’d survived another shooting, was killed instantly in the drive-by, while his passengers escaped.

After an investigation by Providence detectives Michael Otrando, Stephen Sullivan, and Theodore Michael, prosecutors John Moreira and Jeffrey Morin convinced the jury that Page’s murder stemmed from an ongoing gang feud.

That night, Page had driven to a home on Lowell Avenue pick up two passengers. Hay and Hang pulled up in a stolen Audi and fired at the residence and the people in the Page’s car.

Investigators later found the Smith & Wesson .22 caliber long rifle pistol, which the Rhode Island State Crime lab confirmed had been used to kill Page.

After a 17-day jury trial before Superior Court Justice Kristen E. Rodgers, the jury found Hay and Hang guilty of murder, conspiracy, two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, three counts of discharging a firearm while committing a crime of violence, discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, and carrying a pistol without a license.

Hay was also found guilty of possession of a firearm after being convicted of a crime of violence. Prosecutors are asking the court to determine that Hay is a habitual criminal, which carries a maximum 25-year sentence consecutive to any other sentence imposed.

Hay and Hang are being held without bail at the Adult Correctional Institutions pending a hearing on their motion for a new trial on Nov. 1 in Providence County Superior Court.

“This case is about senseless and indiscriminate gun violence. And this violence, which too often results in death, can be traced to one thing, the very thing that is at the heart of this case: illegal firearms wielded by criminals all too willing to use them at a moment’s notice to settle minor disputes and ridiculous scores,” Attorney General Peter F. Neronha said in a statement. “I am grateful that the day of consequence and justice has arrived for these defendants, who now face entirely deserved long sentences in state prison for so blithely taking the life of another. I am grateful to Mr. Page’s family for their patience as we have travelled this road together. And the men and women of the Providence Police Department have my continued admiration and gratitude for their outstanding work investigating this case and ensuring its successful prosecution.”

Sept. 30, 2022

Jury finds Providence man guilty of multiple counts of child molestation

PROVIDENCE — A Providence man was found guilty Wednesday of multiple counts of child molestation against a girl under 14.

After a seven-day trial before Superior Court Justice Stephen P. Nugent, it took a jury just three and a half hours to find 61-year-old Jose Lantigua guilty of first-degree child molestation and second-degree child molestation.

Attorney General Peter F. Neronha said he was grateful to the girl and her family, and Providence Detective Koren Garcia, for bringing Lantigua to justice.

“It is impossible to capture in words the degree of harm the defendant caused the little girl he sexually assaulted here. His criminal conduct would have caused devastating harm to her had it happened once. Here it happened on multiple occasions, over a series of many years,” Neronha said in a statement Friday. “Yet this little girl stood up, came forward, and ultimately did an extraordinarily brave thing: she confronted her accuser and brought him to justice.”

Assistant Attorney General Shannon Signore and Special Assistant Attorney General Ariel Pittner presented a case that proved to the jury that Lantigua had sexually assaulted the girl, who he knew, multiple times between 2013 and 2019 at a home in Providence.

“I commend the young victim in this case for coming forward and exhibiting great courage throughout the investigation and prosecution of this case,” Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Paré said in a statement.

“Cases involving the sexual exploitation of children are some of the most heartbreaking that are investigated by the men and women of the Providence Police Department,” Providence Police Chief Colonel Hugh T. Clements Jr. said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with the victim and her loved ones at this time, and hope that this verdict can bring a sense of justice to them, following their traumatic experience.”

Lantigua is held without bail at the Adult Correctional Institutions pending a sentencing hearing on Dec. 13 in Providence County Superior Court.

Sept. 1, 2022

Texas woman admits in US District Court Rhode Island that she collected $1.26 million in multi-state ‘romance scam’

PROVIDENCE — A woman from Houston, Texas, admitted to a federal judge on Thursday that she participated in a conspiracy that scammed unsuspecting and trusting victims of more than $2.6 million dollars through internet-based “romance scams.”

Dominique Golden, 31, also admitted in US District Court that she personally collected $1.26 million in cash, checks, money orders, and wire transfers from people across the country, including Rhode Island, US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha announced.

Golden, who had four other aliases, admitted that she opened mailboxes and bank accounts with the names of fake people and businesses in order to obtain and deposit funds from the “romance scam” victims.

An investigation by the US Postal Inspection Service determined that the members of the conspiracy collected a total of $2.6 million. Golden collected more than $1.26 million in just 10 months, from Feb. 4 to Dec. 12, 2018, according to federal prosecutors.

The group worked by contacting victims through the internet and over apps, such as Words With Friends, Facebook, Match.com, and Christian Mingle, posing as romantic interests or distant relatives in need of help, and directed victims to send money.

One contacted a South Kingstown resident in their 70s over Words With Friends, posing as “General Matthew Weyer,” stationed with the US Army in Afghanistan. “Weyer” said he needed money to ship a box to the United States, according to court records. The South Kingstown resident eventually ended up sending $585,346 to Golden and others in the conspiracy, according to court records.

Other victims were from New York, Arkansas, Colorado, North Carolina, Missouri, and Florida.

Golden pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and will be sentenced on Dec. 6. According to a plea agreement, she will forfeit all interest in any fraud-related assets traceable or derived from her criminal conduct; this includes a 2018 Bentley Bentayga; a 2017 Mercedes E-Class; a gold oyster perpetual women’s Rolex watch; a gold oyster perpetual men’s Rolex watch; a gold and diamond Rolex bezel; a 16-inch gold rope chain with a diamond coin pendant; a 24-inch gold rope chain; three firearms; and $11,731 seized from her home and from the Bentley.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Denise M. Barton, with the assistance of Assistant United States Attorney Dulce Donovan.

Aug. 31, 2022

Johnston man sentenced to federal prison for possession of child pornography

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A Johnston man who admitted to possessing more than 2,000 videos and images of child pornography has been sentenced to three years in federal prison, US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha said Wednesday.

Jon Knowles, 49, admitted to a federal judge in May that he employed a computer software program to download encrypted “pieces” of files used to assemble digital files. In June and August of 2021, Knowles used the software program to download and assemble at least three sexually explicit video files depicting prepubescent females.

On Nov. 17, FBI agents conducted a court-authorized search of Knowles’ residence and seized several electronic devices. A forensic audit of the devices resulted in the discovery of 2,075 videos and 342 images of child pornography, according to the US attorney’s office.

Knowles pleaded guilty on May 9 to a charge of possession of child pornography. U.S. District Court Judge Mary S. McElroy sentenced Knowles on Wednesday to three years in federal prison, followed by 10 years of federal supervised release. Knowles was also ordered to pay $5,000 special assessment, as required by the Justice for Victims Trafficking Act in child sexual exploitation cases where the court makes a finding that the defendant is not indigent.

Aug. 31, 2022

Providence men sentenced on ghost gun and fentanyl trafficking charges

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Two Providence men arrested in a drug-trafficking investigation last fall have been sentenced to prison.

While investigating a drug-trafficking operation, the state police high-intensity drug trafficking area task force had seized fentanyl, cocaine, a ghost gun, a 31-round gun magazine, ammunition, and drug paraphernalia from an apartment on Plainfield Street and a storage unit in Cranston, according to the attorney general’s office.

Lazaro Martinez, 37, and Damian DeAngelis, 39, had pleaded guilty to possession of more than a kilogram of fentanyl, possession of one ounce to one kilogram of cocaine, conspiracy. Martinez also pleaded guilty to possession of a ghost gun and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.

On Thursday, Superior Court Judge Robert D. Krause sentenced Martinez to 20 years, with 12 years to serve at the Adult Correctional Institutions. Krause sentenced DeAngelis to 15 years, with seven years to serve.

This was one of 50 “ghost-gun” cases that the attorney general’s office has prosecuted since the firearms were outlawed two years ago. Attorney General Peter F. Neronha said in a statement Wednesday that his office sought to pass that law “because we knew that they are the gun of choice for those with long criminal records and who continue to engage in serious, often life-threatening criminal activity.”

Aug. 25, 2022

RI State Police: Massachusetts speeder had “ghost gun” and drugs

CUMBERLAND, R.I. – A Massachusetts man stopped for speeding on Route 295 in Cumberland early Thursday had a loaded “ghost gun” and narcotics in his vehicle, according to the Rhode Island State Police.

Gentrit Millanaj, 20, of Medford, was charged with possession of a ghost gun, possession with intent to deliver marijuana and crack cocaine, possession of a firearm while committing a crime of violence, and possession of more than an ounce of marijuana. The state police said that troopers seized a loaded “Patmos” 9mm pistol with no serial number, 19.6 ounces of marijuana, 2.6 grams of crack cocaine, and drug packaging equipment from Millanaj’s car.

Millanaj was arraigned Thursday at District Court, where bail was set at $75,000 with surety.

Aug. 25, 2022

Pawtucket man sentenced to 12 years in state prison for child molestation

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A Pawtucket man has been sentenced to serve 12 years at the Adult Correctional Institutions for molesting a young girl in 2019.

Johnnie Doe, 57, was accused of molesting a girl under 14 years old at a home in Pawtucket in February 2019. The girl, who Doe knew, immediately called 911 after she was assaulted. The attorney general’s office said that the Pawtucket police were able to match Doe’s DNA to evidence on the girl’s skin and clothing.

A jury in Providence County Superior Court convicted Doe in June of four counts of second-degree child molestation.

Superior Court Justice Stephen P. Nugent sentenced Doe on Monday to 25 years, with 12 years to serve at the ACI and a 13-year suspended sentence, along with 25 years probation. The judge also ordered Doe not to have any contact with the girl. Doe is required to register as a sex offender, must attend sex offender counseling, and is subject to community supervision requirements.

Doe is facing sexual assault charges in a separate case that is pending in Providence County Superior Court.

Attorney General Peter F. Neronha praised the girl for coming forward, as well as the investigation by the police.

“The courage that this young victim displayed in reporting the defendant’s crimes against her and facing him in court is something that will stay with me for a very long time. I admire her and her family very much for their commitment to ensuring that this defendant will no longer be in a position to harm others,” Neronha said in a statement. “I am also deeply grateful for the outstanding investigative work by the Pawtucket Police Department in this case and in others as we work together to protect Rhode Island’s most vulnerable residents.”

The case was investigated by Pawtucket detectives Craig Letourneau and Robert Cardente and prosecuted by special assistant attorneys general Jonathan E. Burke and Taylor L. Matook.

Aug. 16, 2022

Attorney general finds no crime in alleged hazing of North Smithfield football players; investigation remains open out of concern for youths’ safety

NORTH SMITHFIELD — The North Smithfield police and attorney general’s office said Tuesday that they didn’t find evidence of a crime in their investigation this summer into allegations of hazing by the North Smithfield High School football team.

However, the attorney general’s office said the investigation raised concerns about the safety of football team members, and during the off-season, prospective team members, when no adults are around during team activities.

The North Smithfield School Department told the attorney general’s office on June 21 that it had allegations that older members of the football team had hazed the younger members or prospective members during team activities in spring 2022 when no adults were around.

The attorney general’s office and police immediately launched an investigation, with police interviewing more than 30 adults and youths. (Some parents did not consent for their children to be questioned.)

The attorney general’s office said in a statement Tuesday that no football team member or prospective member reported being subjected to physical contact that they characterized as inappropriate or criminal in nature. No team member or prospective member or parent requested criminal charges against anyone, and no adults, including football team coaches, said they witnessed physical contact among team members or prospective members that could be characterized as inappropriate or criminal in nature.

However, the attorney general’s office said that multiple witnesses credibly reported that there were times immediately before and after team activities that no adults were around. Some said they saw older team members be physical with younger team players or prospective players in ways the attorney general’s office found inappropriate.

Some older team members held down younger members, “making apparent physical contact with them, including in the buttocks and other sensitive areas,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement.

“Whether this plainly inappropriate conduct rises to the level of criminal misconduct, and whether criminal charges are possible if it does, remains undetermined at this time given the unwillingness to date of any team member or prospective member to come forward to describe precisely the physical contact that they were subjected to and make a criminal complaint to police,” the attorney general’s office said.

The authorities are keeping the investigation open and encourage anyone with information about hazing to contact the police department or attorney general’s office.

Aug. 9, 2022

Former North Kingstown VFW post commander admits falsifying military service and medals to get more than $250,000 benefits and charity

PROVIDENCE — A former social worker at the Rhode Island Veterans Affairs Medical Center pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying about being a cancer-stricken, decorated Marine, so she could obtain more than $250,000 in benefits and services for injured veterans.

Sarah Jane Cavanaugh, 31, will be sentenced on four federal charges on Nov. 10, the day before Veteran’s Day.

Cavanaugh had been the commander of North Kingstown Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 152 and wore a Purple Heart and Bronze Star on a Marine uniform at events, until allegations surfaced in late January that she wasn’t who she claimed to be.

An investigation found that Cavanaugh had stolen the identities of actual veterans who had sought treatment at the medical center, used medical records from a friend’s mother to make it appear she was being treated for cancer, and bought replica medals to display on the uniform.

At a remote hearing Tuesday before US District Court Chief Judge John J. McConnell Jr., Cavanaugh pleaded guilty to using another person’s military discharge certificate, the DD-214 form, aggravated ID theft, fraudulently holding herself out as a recipient of a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, and using communications in furtherance of fraudulent activities.

She faces a mandatory minimum of two years in federal prison, and a maximum sentence of 24 years. Under a plea agreement reached July 1, Cavanaugh has agreed to apply $82,489 toward restitution. The court will decide the final amount of restitution at her sentencing.

“Every day, thousands of American men and women honorably serve this country in uniform,” US Attorney Zachary Cunha said in a statement. “They sacrifice for our safety, putting themselves in harm’s way, often without praise or public recognition, and they deserve our thanks and our respect. This defendant sought to trade on that respect — respect she did not earn, evoked by a uniform to which she had no claim — by pretending that she was a United States Marine battling stage IV cancer, in order to trick generous members of the public into lining her pockets. Her conduct is disgraceful, and it richly warrants her conviction today as a federal felon.”

Jamestown Police: Teens forged signatures on 18-year-old’s nomination papers for governor

JAMESTOWN — Police have arrested two individuals accused of providing officials falsified nomination papers for an 18-year-old gubernatorial candidate.

The Jamestown Police Department charged Gracie Flynn and Owen Lockey, both 18, for allegedly conspiring to forge signatures on nomination forms on behalf of Zachary Hurwitz, an independent candidate for governor in Rhode Island. They were charged with providing a false document to a public official and conspiracy.

Hurwitz needed 1,000 valid signatures for his name to appear on the ballot.

An investigation was launched after the clerk’s office in Jamestown attempted to verify signatures from two Jamestown residents, police said. Both surrendered at Jamestown police headquarters and were released with a summons to appear in court. They will be arraigned on Friday.


Smithfield officer possibly exposed to fentanyl while making an arrest

SMITHFIELD — While conducting a search of a Johnston man this weekend, a Smithfield officer was potentially exposed to fentanyl and was taken to the hospital.

Police were called to the Seasons Corner Market on Douglas Pike Saturday morning for reports of a road rage incident, according to police. This unidentified officer spoke to both drivers involved, including 39-year-old Anthony Romano. While searching Romano for weapons, the officer found a plastic bag that contained “a white powdery substance” in his waistband, police said.

After finding the bag, the unidentified officer started feeling unwell. He was given a single dose of Narcan, which treats narcotic overdoses in an emergency situation, by another officer and then transported to Our Lady of Fatima Hospital in North Providence for potential fentanyl exposure. The officer was released from the hospital the same day.

Romano also had a brown bag that contained 390 suspected Oxycodone pills on him, according to police. He was charged with possession of more than 10 grams of cocaine and possession of over 10 grams of Oxycodone, police said. Romano was arraigned and released on $10,000 personal recognizance. He is scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 7.

Both substances were tested for fentanyl. It’s still unclear whether the officer’s symptoms were from fentanyl exposure, police said.


Aug. 5, 2022

Providence man sentenced to 42 years for 2015 murder at Providence apartment building

PROVIDENCE — A Providence man who pleaded guilty for the 2015 murder of a 54-year-old woman has been ordered to serve 42 years in prison.

Earlier this year, Efrain Blanco, 38, pleaded guilty to murdering Zenaida Pacheco at an apartment building on Randall Street in Providence. At his hearing on Aug. 3, Superior Court Justice Richard Raspallo also sentenced Blanco to an 18-year suspended sentence with probation after his time at the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston.

On Jan. 13, the defendant entered a plea of guilty to second-degree murder.

Attorney General Peter F. Neronha’s office said if the case had proceeded to trial, the state was prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that on Oct. 25, 2015, the defendant strangled Zenaida Pacheco to death in her apartment.

Providence police detectives identified the suspect through cell phone records and surveillance footage. On Nov. 4, 2015, investigators released photos of the suspect to the media. Several weeks later, members of the public identified the suspect as Blanco, who was captured by detectives shortly after.

Investigators determined that Blanco used a power cord to strangle Pacheco. They confirmed Blanco’s DNA on the cord through laboratory testing.

“The day has finally come when this defendant must pay the price for his senseless murder of Zenaida Pacheco, a woman much loved by her family and her community,” said Neronha in a statement Friday. “Nothing can return Zenaida to her family, but we can deliver justice for her and for them, and that has now been achieved.”

Detectives from the Providence Police Department conducted the investigation. Special Assistant Attorneys General Molly Kapstein Cote and Eric A. Batista lead the prosecution of the case.

“The men and women of the Providence Police were again outstanding in their investigation of this case, and I am grateful for our ongoing law enforcement partnership.”


Aug. 2, 2022

Providence man sentenced to 14 years for role in gang-related mass shooting

PROVIDENCE — A Providence man who pleaded guilty for his involvement in a gang-related shooting that wounded nine in the city’s Washington Park neighborhood has been ordered to serve 14 years in prison.

Ricardo Cosme Tejada, 21, pleaded guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy, both of which carried a criminal street gang enhancement, discharge of a firearm during a violent crime that resulted in injury and conspiracy, carrying a pistol without a license and conspiracy.

Tejada also pleaded guilty to possessing a ghost gun in a separate incident in April 2021.

Before sundown on May 13, 2021, Tejada and three other members of the “Get Money” gang drove to 87 Carolina Avenue, where members of the “Lakeside” gang were hanging out on the porch. The Get Money gang jumped out of their truck and started firing at their rivals — who fired back, wounding all four of them. Four of the people on the porch were also wounded, and another was hit by shrapnel.

Police found 51 spent shell casings from different firearms sprayed on the road and the property at 87 Carolina Avenue, as well as bullets that went through a neighbor’s home.

Investigators also reported seizing 500 rounds of ammunition in various calibers, a dozen gun magazines that included some holding 20, 30, 40, and 60 rounds of ammunition, and multiple pistols, ghost guns, BB guns, and a rifle. They also found marijuana, THC, and Psilocin at the home.

Superior Court Judge Robert D. Krause sentenced Tejada on July 27 to 14 years at the Adult Correctional Institutions, with a 20-year suspended sentence and 20 years of probation for his involvement in the shooting on Carolina Avenue.

Krause also ordered Tejada to a concurrent sentence of five years, with two years to serve, followed by a three-year suspended sentence with probation, for possession of a ghost gun.

“While the Carolina Ave. shooting presents as an egregious example of gun violence in Rhode Island, it shares key characteristics that we have seen in many other shooting incidents since then: the wide availability of illegal guns, the number of rounds being fired, and the use in many instances of high-capacity magazines and ghost guns,” Attorney General Peter F. Neronha said in a statement Tuesday.

“The defendant was part of a group that that turned a peaceful Providence neighborhood into their own personal shooting range. The long sentence imposed by the court here should send a strong message that gun violence will bring the most serious consequences. The work of our law enforcement partners was exemplary during these cases, and I am grateful for their continuing partnership with this Office.”

Woonsocket man sentenced to five years in federal prison for trafficking crack cocaine

PROVIDENCE — A Woonsocket man who led a crack cocaine distribution operation, and who attempted to disguise his involvement by having others deliver drugs that he had arranged to sell, has been sentenced to five years in federal prison, US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha announced Tuesday.

Anthony Medeiros, 31, arranged at least four sales of crack cocaine, using text messaging, phone calls, and Snapchat, in Woonsocket in early 2020, according to court documents.

Medeiros utilized a “runner” to deliver the drugs that he sold, including, in one case, his girlfriend, according to an investigation by the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and Project Safe Neighborhoods.

Medeiros was arrested and detained in federal custody in October 2020 and indicted in November 2020, and pleaded guilty on May 6, 2021, to conspiracy to distribute cocaine base; distribution of cocaine base; and two counts of distribution of 28 grams or more of cocaine base. He was sentenced on Monday by U.S. District Court Judge Mary S. McElroy to 60 months of incarceration, followed by four years of federal supervised release.